Having looked at a video of a pike formation (phalanx) sweeping its pikes, I felt reminded of sea urchins from the Mediterranean Sea. One of these black beasts left some reminders in a foot of mine after a careless step, so I don't forget these things even though those needles were dissolved after a decade or so at last.
This analogy in nature to medieval pike square formations makes me wonder even more whether the ancient Hellenic (Macedon, Seleucid and Ptolemaic) pike phalanx was really limited to a line instead of being capable of moving and fighting in blocks as did medieval pike formations and supposedly late Republican and early Imperial Roman heavy infantry.
|Landsknecht pike square|
Could the ancient Hellenes really have missed this nature's analogy and missed out on what a bunch of Swiss peasants improvised in the 14th century? The terrain of Greece has few open plains and many obstacles, so a non-linear formation should have been an obvious choice once the ritualistic relatively low casualty polis-vs-polis phalanx pushing contests fell out of fashion.
An army of pike squares with at least 10 m wide gaps would be able to defend on a much wider frontage than a continuous linear phalangite force, and it would have been able to rotate between front and reserves, to cope better with uneven advances or retrograde movements etc. Cooperation with light troops (skirmishers such as archers, slingers, peltasts) and cavalry would be easier as well.
I've read a lot about ancient European, North African and Near/Mid Eastern warfare, but Landsknecht-style pike squares were never mentioned in a pre-1200 context.
Ancient illustrations - wall reliefs, mosaics, vase paintings - aren't well-suited for depiction of pike squares, but depicting a linear phalanx posed no difficulties. Maybe that's the key here.
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By the way; many illustrations of pikes in action are wrong: Either the pike is bent in its natural state (held upwards) and bends into a straight pike in action (held horizontally) or it's straight naturally and bent in action (which would make it less robust on impact). I suppose they were bent naturally for greater strength in combat. This means illustrations such as the one above should be incorrect. The pikes were probably illustrated as straight when held vertically because it looks better and is easier for the artist. The bending is a nature's law thing and can be calculated - you cannot avoid it. No pike was or will ever be straight both when held vertically and when held horizontally.